At 36 years old, Jen Thompson was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on August 30, 2011.
Jen Thompson is not cancer, but she is a survivor.
It does not define her; but it will inevitably make her and everyone around her stronger with a deeper capacity for empathy, humility, faith, love and strength of character.
Jen is the loving mother of Cooper, 9, Cohen, 6 and Oliver the Boston Terrier (whom she cried over like she was giving birth when he arrived at the airport). She is a dear friend to many, a gifted photographer, designer and an artist in everything she touches. She is the friend we call on when we have exciting news and the shoulder we cry on when the news is not so amazing. She is an entrepreneur with a constant stream of projects and ideas spinning like plates around her. Dr. Pepper flavored chapstick and foo-foo coffees are her life-line. She is 6ft tall–but turns into silly puddy when she’s tickled. Every meticulous detail of her home and studio reflects intense creativity and her love of life, family and friendships. Her loving heart, quick wit and contagious giggle make her a shining star that friends and strangers adore.
How does one possibly encapsulate everything a life like Jen’s represents in a couple short paragraphs? This girl simply brings far too much to the world and our lives to succumb to ‘effing cancer.
On June 26th, Herm (the nickname for Jen’s cancerous tumor) began making himself known with bloating and severe and spastic cramping while we were enjoying a carefree summer day by the pool. Only three short months later, I was writing this bio from Floor 7 at Providence Hospital where a 13 cm mass was removed along with Jen’s uterus, ovaries, ovarian tubes and appendix in a rushed radical hysterectomy.
When it is detected early, ovarian cancer has a 90% cure rate. But because 80% of women are not diagnosed until its late stages, ovarian cancer is considered the deadliest reproductive system cancer for women.
Jen does not fit the profile of a cancer patient. She’s young with no family history of cancer. A completely suprise to all, including her doctors, there is no logical reason for Jen to have been diagnosed. She’s taken good care of her body and there is nothing anyone could point to and say, “This is why this happened to you.”
Below are the common symptoms of ovarian cancer. Jen experienced every one of these leading up to her diagnosis.
1. Severe and frequent bloating/ Increased abdominal size
2. Severe and spastic cramping–similar to menstrual pains but more intense
3. Lower abdominal and back pain
4. Loss of appetite/Feeling full quickly
5. Weight loss
6. Extreme fatigue/Lack of energy
7. Night sweats
These symptoms are common and can be associated with a number of different causes–which is what makes ovarian cancer particularly difficult to detect. If you or someone you know is frequently experiencing these symptoms, the most effective way to diagnosis the disease is through an ultra-sound. You must ask for one and be prepared to fight for it. Despite common belief… ovarian cancer is NOT detected or even tested for during an annual pap exam.
I’m not going to lie–this is a scary time. On, September 14th, 2011 we left the hospital not fully knowing the challenges that lie ahead. But we are convinced of 2 things: 1. Jen is a fighter and has the spirit, stubbornness and faith to kick this; and 2. Early detection for ovarian cancer is not only possible–it’s essential. Jen is asking you and your wife, sister, friends and mother to GET SCREENED NOW.
Written by Cheryl McIntosh
Photography by Benjamin Edwards